Interiorssneak peeks

A Home Designed to Rival a Hotel

by Amy Azzarito

Ann Ueno and her husband, Rick,  spend most of their time thinking about hotels. Actually, they spend forty-plus hours a week thinking about hotels. Ann is the director of marketing for Starwood Hotels and her husband is the general manager of Sheraton Chicago.  So when it came time to decorate their own Chicago home, they kept the feeling of a hotel firmly in mind. From the subdued palette to little vignettes throughout the home, Ann always plays with ideas of symmetry and contrast that she picked up from hotel designers. But in the three and a half years that she’s been living in the apartment, the biggest lesson Ann has learned is to go slowly when creating a home. She’s let the design evolve gradually without making rash decisions or rushing anything. The outcome is a space that feels personal, flexible and is welcoming to family and friends. In fact, Ann is so serious about people feeling welcome that she says that she’s an advocate of spilled wine and broken dishes – because that’s when you know that things are truly relaxed! Thanks, Ann and Rick! –Amy

Photography: Kristyna Archer

Image above: Having a guest bedroom was important to us. We love hosting and we’ve even had people live with us for weeks and months at a time. I wanted this space to be simple, neutral and comfortable. The sheets are just yummy (and are actually just from Bed, Bath & Beyond) and I saw this quilt at Pottery Barn and it screamed my great-grandmother, Anne. It has a vintage feel with incredible texture and pattern. My favorite parts of this room are the vintage typewriter and camera artwork that I snagged up from One Kings Lane a couple years ago!

Image above: Ahhhh, our dining room. This is my favorite space in our entire home as it is where we gather, break bread, clink glasses, laugh, cry, pray and eat delicious food! I love entertaining and the table – pairing antique solid reclaimed elm doors and cast metal achieves the “form meets function” industrial appeal – is from Restoration Hardware and is the perfect piece to entertain. The chairs, which balance with a softer, gold-ish tone, are such a value from Z Gallerie! The gallery wall is made up of artwork from Madrid, Paris and Uruguay, along with my own graphic design and photography – it truly reflects our personal life and brings out so many amazing memories we’ve had while traveling.

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See more of Ann’s Chicago home after the jump!

Image above: White flowers. Tulips. Hydrangeas. Need I say more?! This is a super simple way to enhance a table using a collection of vases I found under my sink! The total cost for these flowers was around $50, they brighten the space (we need that in Chicago, especially in the winter time) and add a lovely scent. Easy way to create an elegant centerpiece!  

Image above: My husband and I are big readers and using our books as art, incorporated into our living space, just made sense. This little nook features artwork from Jaipur, fresh flowers and personal photos that make our house a home. I have two slipper chairs that I recovered with Caitlin Wilson textiles (ed. note: see our sneak peek into Caitlin’s home here!) and LOVE how they turned out. My favorite piece in this space are the “Home” letters. I found a designer on Etsy, Little White Dog, and she covers the letters with maps of places you you’ve traveled. Brilliant! I am not sure she still does them but it’s a great gift idea and really makes for a unique accent piece.  

Image above: Ahhhh, the coffee table vignette. I have so much fun with this. As travel is our passion (if you haven’t noticed), most of the books here reflect just that. And here’s a hint: take the cover off of coffee table books. You will often find the original binding is absolutely beautiful and better than the paper cover the book comes with. I have a handful of milk glass pieces and here, the dish, is my grandmother’s and I fill it with matches from some of our favorite restaurants. Jayson Home is one of my favorite design stores in Chicago and the gold leaf tray was a gift from one of my dear friends from Jayson Home, so I love displaying it as I always think of her when I see it! The pillows in the background? I snagged up some inexpensive fabric from The Needle Shop in Chicago and had them recovered to add some color and bold pattern for the season. I am sure I will change them again as I love to play with textiles! 

Image above: My version of the bar cart. The Z Gallerie mirrored chest sits on a Turkish rug that was gifted to me from a close friend who is from Ankara, Turkey. That rug always reminds me of the many nights I spent at her Upper West Side apartment in NYC drinking wine and eating cheese until wee hours of the morning! And the anchors of this space? The milk glass lamps that were in my grandmother’s house for years and years and years. They were in one of her guest bedrooms and I grew up with them so I was honored when I received them when she passed. And it’s very apropos I have them on the bar as my grandparents loved their martinis!

Image above: What came first? The books and accents or the flower-boxes-turned-DIY-bookshelf? The DIY bookshelf, naturally! I saw these vintage flower crates at a flower shop in Chicago and knew I had to have them in my house, despite the fact that I had no idea what I would use them for. I negotiated a price, put them in my trunk and had the “I will find a home for these eventually” mentality. And, voila! I made storage to house an array of books and frames and things I couldn’t find a home for. It’s like a junk drawer, but more visually appealing.

Image above: This is our informal dining area credenza, housing cocktail glasses, serving dishes, napkins and everything you need to bring together a cocktail hour. As this is a transitional space (sometimes I use it for food, my husband uses it as his catch all, etc.), I needed it to be simple, so I leveraged a piece of art from Barcelona as the focal point. Add a globe, a couple books and our wedding picture and there you have it.

Image above: Here is my home office. A space where I blog, I ideate, I pray, I create and I work. I always have a candle lit when I am in there and it really is a great space of our house I can call my own that fosters a creative environment. It’s honestly as simple as that!
Image above: The master bedroom was the final space I designed in our home and my concept stemmed from where my husband and I spend and have spent so much of our life… in a hotel. Being in the hotel business, we stay in so many beautiful hotels and I have learned a lot about hotel design over the years so I took a few tricks from their playbook. White bedding (from Restoration Hardware). Symmetry. And contrast. And of course, I personalized it with a gallery wall that is symbolic of Rick and me with all kinds of lovey-dovey prints and bible verses and wedding pictures. I know, I know…

Image above: This little nook was once a wasted space that I transformed into a functional entryway. I used a bench that was left in the house from the previous tenants. I went to Anthropologie and bought 10 hooks to add a bit of creativity to the space. And who doesn’t want a Parisian subway sign to welcome them home?!

Image above: Last, my entryway. I had one vision for this space: when I come home, I want to be inspired and know and feel I am at home. All of the photography here is my own, from special places I’ve traveled from Cabo to New Delhi. Welcome to the Ueno abode!

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  • Ann has done a remarkable job creating a home that is elegant, inviting, serene and functional. I love her use of fresh flowers in each space and how curated vignettes of pictures and books (and booze!) add so much personality and interest to the space. Definitely hotel, and definitely lovely. Thanks for sharing.


  • Love this space! I want that PB quilt but knowing my luck it is probably no longer available. :-( I am also coveting that Louis Vuitton bag! Great sense of style!!

  • I’m glad this space makes the family happy, but [WARNING: personal opinion ahead!] homes with this much “stuff” in them need to be very carefully curated in order to appeal to me. This is all my own taste/preference, of course, but I think this home could use a little downsizing in the accessories department. Right now it looks as though it’s trying to look like a haven for personally-acquired treasures, but instead comes off as a Christmas Tree Shop shopper’s repository.

  • Just simply gorgeous! Loved every bit of it. Rick is super blessed to have you!

  • No? Those sort of kitschy, knick-knacky, made-to-look-lived-in sort of tchotchkes for which the Christmas Tree Shops are known? Maybe I’ve just been inside too many homes in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast that subscribe to this sort of “more is more” decorating style. It just looks things aren’t well-considered enough to be curated, but not personal enough to make up for the sheer amount of decor.

    • Maggie

      I guess I’m just not seeing the “sheer amount of decor” you’re seeing. I’ve seen every peek we’ve posted for the past 10 years and there are plenty that I could understand being seen as having “a lot” or a “more is more” mentality. But this one feels pretty clean, neat and far from kitschy to me.


  • Your home is so beautiful, I especially love your desk. Where did you buy the lamp on your office desk?

  • I love your home. I agree with the concept of white bedding. But cats shed and puke. I don’t think you have too much stuff. It looks nice.

  • i love it and it IS well curated…a wonderful mix of meaningful treasures to remind her of beloved memories and friends/family. You won’t find THAT in a Christmas Tree Shop. Thank you for sharing… i loved the “visit!”

  • The details and textures of this home are impeccable. Everything is uniquely places to reflect an intentional yet unpretentious feel. From mismatched frames to vibrant pops of color, mixing natural woods and adding accents of metal, the design is tremendous. A liveable home with high-caliber interiors!

  • The instant I clicked on this post I got a wonderful vibe. I felt the warmth of the people who live there. The charcoal grey walls in the master bedroom with the fresh white bedding and the beautifully balanced “headboard” of framed art and verse above are beautiful, engaging and restful all at once.

  • There are so many lovely touches to this home. I love the flower arrangements that are all one color in several types of flowers and shapes of vases.
    The serving tray of liquor and candy canes, what a great idea, and it is reminiscent of a hotel, a very fine one!
    The bedroom is exquisite, very elegant yet cozy, a nice combination.

  • i love hearing how much her home inspires her. I feel like I spend too much time stressing about everything that isn’t just right, and not enough time loving where I love…very refreshing tour!

  • Sublime! Thank you for sharing your lovely home. The paint colors you’ve chosen are so soothing and perfect for each room. Could you share them? Would love the name of your gray colors? Thanks again!

  • I’m glad you are a fan of Z Gallerie too! I have a teal leather wing chair from them, plus some curios and such. Pretty home!

  • I love this space! Appreciate whenever design sponge strays away from a home that is painted all in white: sure those spaces are lovely, but so similar, and it seems everyone is afraid to put some colour on their walls!